ONEFOUR played without police interference. Skrillex dropped the hell out of that bass. Marc Rebillet… Did what Marc Rebillet does. It was one hell of a day!
It’s long been known that Naarm/Melbourne doesn’t have “seasons” in the same way the rest of Australia does – one day it can be dreary and frostbitten, the next unbearably hot and the next after that a mix of the two. Thankfully we are, on occasion, gifted a day so idyllic it beckons disbelief: sunny, but not scorching; a foreigner’s vision of the picturesque Australian summer. Friday September 30, 2023 – the AFL Grand Final public holiday, but more importantly too the day of this year’s Listen Out festival – was one of those days.
Perfect weather and a spacious new venue for the annual rap and EDM festival – the Caribbean Gardens in Scoresby, a move from St Kilda’s Catani Gardens – made for a wonderful atmosphere: you’d have been hard-pressed to find a frown among this sea of hip-hop hellions and bass-bewitched babes. Add to that a packed ten hours of world-class performances from international heavyweights like Skrillex, Four Tet, Ice Spice, Kenny Beats and Lil Uzi Vert – plus local legends like ONEFOUR, Kobie Dee, Mallrat, Handsome and 1tbsp – as well as a decent spread of bars and a layout easy to navigate, and you’ve got all the ingredients needed for a damn near perfect festival.
We left the grounds with stacks upon stacks of memories, but of course there were a few moments that just stood out for being especially momentous. After wading through all the (barely comprehensible) cliffnotes we frantically spewed into our Notes app, we’ve settled on our five favourite moments from the Melbourne edition of Listen Out 2023. These are the wildest things we saw from the crowd – the scenes that had us thinking, “Damn, what a fucking gift it is to be alive right now!”
Read on for the full list below, then head here for Purple Sneakers’ full review of the Meanjin/Brisbane show.
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Western Sydney’s drill kings have a notoriously dicey relationship with cops, and fans know not to get too excited when shows are announced because at any moment – even once the shows themselves have already started – they could be shut down for any manner of bullshit reasoning. ONEFOUR were a last-minute bonus to Listen Out’s itinerary, replacing Metro Boomin after he cancelled just hours before the tour kicked off in Brisbane last Saturday (September 23). The news was lauded by festivalgoers, in part because they’re (arguably) better than Metro, but mostly due to the fact they’re one of the hottest acts in Aussie hip-hop, and for a good chunk of us, this would be the first time we’d be able to watch them perform IRL.
The festival altogether had a strong police presence, and when ONEFOUR took to the Atari stage at 6:05pm, it seemed like every cop on the ground was ordered to be there. But not once did we see them step into action. The group’s crowd was energised but wholesome – when we clocked a young woman trip on uneven grass, two beefed-up eshay types swooped in to help her (and didn’t even try to hit on her afterwards). A few mosh pits opened when ONEFOUR whipped out some of their harder material, but not a single one devolved into a punch-on. And the group themselves had a blast onstage, clearly revelling in their fandom’s buoyancy. They made the most of every second in their 20-minute set, every bar spat with visceral passion as they leapt around the stage.
They of course nodded to their string of controversies, walking out to clips of news reports on police efforts to shut them down – but all in all, ONEFOUR’s set was actually rather tame. It was a solid performance that we saw from a respectful (but still hyped-as-fuck) crowd, which we walked away from unscathed and without shaky phone footage of cops antagonising punters. Having followed the group for some time, we’ll admit it was a little surprising – but ultimately welcomed. We had a blast watching ONEFOUR crush it onstage, and we hope it’s not long before we have another chance to.
It’s so wild to imagine punters in Kaurna/Adelaide having a problem with Marc Rebillet – every second of his Melbourne set was downright iconic, from the songs themselves (an unhinged and improvised amalgam of funk, house and hip-hop delivered with a punk-esque energy) to their correspondingly insane (and insanely horny) visuals. To that end, every word of Rebillet’s banter was on-point and off-chops, screamed with a passion and vigour that felt wholly authentic. Early in the set, he yelled at us all to “vote ‘yes’ on the motherfucking proposition to include Aboriginal voices [and] Indigenous voices in Parliament”, even stepping away from the decks and reiterating – “vote ‘yes’ on that shit, you motherfuckers!” to emphasise his sincerity.
Also worth pointing out is that all but one song in Rebillet’s set was made up on the spot – that outlier being Girl’s Club, a standout cut from last year’s Loop Daddy III album – with bars spit and chopped in realtime over bassy beats vibe-checked with the crowd; every five minutes or so, the titular Loop Daddy would pause his flow to play two variations of the same beat, then build the rest of a song on the base of whichever one elicited more cheers. He also played the whole set wearing nothing more than a pair of green boxers, which he stripped down to immediately after he sauntered out onstage.
As a whole, Rebillet’s performance was undoubtedly the best of the festival – hell, it was one of the best performances we’ve seen period. Hell hath no fury like our desperation to relive the experience. Marc, if you’re reading this, hurry the fuck up and come back for a full tour (please).
We saw JPEGMAFIA play a packed headline show at The Forum on Monday (September 25), where he serenaded some 2,000 fans with an a capella cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2011 classic Call Me Maybe. We called the moment “perfect” in our review of that show, applauding the way he sang the full tune “with a shockingly good impression of a pasty pop-punk frontman”. While he only broke out the first verse and chorus at Listen Out – understandable given this set’s curtailed runtime – it felt even more impactful here, with a much bigger swarm of punters singing along like their lives depended on it.
It was only enhanced by the mid-arvo backdrop of a cloud-free, baby blue sky, ice-cold tinnies (which shockingly weren’t too badly overpriced) and some fezzie fits worthy of a Brown Cardigan roast post.
The rest of Peggy’s set played out like an abbreviated version of Monday’s show, with gems like Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot, BALD! and Fentanyl Tester (the lattermost a highlight from SCARING THE HOES, his recent joint album with Danny Brown) standing out as our top picks from his 11-track setlist. That being said, we can’t imagine there’d been many (if any) complaints if Peggy had been given a longer slot on the timetable. With just 30 minutes to shine, the Baltimore rapper seemed to be rushing through his setlist, skimping on the banter and skipping over tracks that blew us away when he played them earlier this week (among them being Rainbow Six, NEMO! and I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies).
Where his headline show felt loose and unhinged, Peggy’s Listen Out set felt laboriously scripted. It still went hard as all sweet hell, though, and we’d happily relive it repeatedly à la Groundhog Day.
This year’s Listen Out marked the first time Ice Spice has performed for Australians, so it felt borderline criminal that she had just 20 minutes allocated for her nighttime performance. Comparatively speaking, it was decent – Lil Uzi Vert closed the Atari stage out with a set only ten minutes longer, and only two acts (ArrDee and Kenny Beats) were given longer slots – but still, there’s no logical way to argue that a talent as strong as Ice Spice only deserves enough time for eight tracks. Every second counted here – and by gum, did this Bronx-native badass do us proud.
The rapper came through with all six tracks from her debut EP Like..? (which arrived back in January) as well as her standalone PinkPantheress joint Boy’s A Liar Pt 2. The latter cut was an easy hit with her sprawling audience – with a deafening chorus happily filling in the gaps left by PinkPantheress – while the viral banger Munch saw those diehard fans bring some of the whole day’s most intense energy. Ice Spice absolutely owned the stage, strutting around with a burning swagger and gripping conviction; there were at least 10,000 people there to see her, and that certainly wasn’t lost on her – she lapped every ounce of attention up like it sustained her.
If anything, Ice Spice’s set at Listen Out played like a teaser for a bigger show – an ad of sorts to gee us up for the inevitable headline tour, which we’re desperately hoping comes in 2024 (alongside her debut album, of course).
It’s been a fair while since Skrillex made the kind of grisly, thrashing bass music he dive-bombed the mainstream in the 2010s. There isn’t even a second of a brostep on either of his last two albums – Quest For Fire and Don’t Get Too Close, both of which dropped back in February – and in recent years, he’s pivoted more into the realms of experimental hip-hop and stock-standard house music. But after watching him bring Listen Out to an explosive climax on the 909 stage, it’s clear the artist (whose real name is Sonny Moore) still has a soft spot for blown-out snares and scream-bass.
His hourlong set was packed with colour, leaping freely from techno to jungle, neurofunk and trap, with sprinklings of glitch and modern club music adding an extra little zest. For a mix so ambitiously diverse, it’s impressive how tight and focused everything was – Moore is a master in the art of controlled chaos, and he took us on a riveting journey through the prismatic labyrinth that is his personal taste. But for the show’s grand finale, Moore threw it back to his golden age (at least as defined by popularity) and broke out a string of his biggest brostep classics.
The utterly insane denouement kicked off with a VIP of 2012’s legendary Bangarang – adrenalised and flourished with pyrotechnic blasts – before Moore pivoted into another VIP, this time breaking out a snarling flip on his Habstrakt collab Chicken Soup (a standalone release from 2017). At this point, the crowd was a heaving, sweaty mess of thrashing bodies, but the energy only boomed when Moore dropped his 2010 classic Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites – cue at least 10,000 bass fiends screaming in unison, “YES, OH MY GOD!!!”
Most of us expected, naturally, that Moore would end his set on the generational anthem. But hell hath no fury like his keenness to subvert the norm, and instead, he dropped a track we hadn’t even thought about in years: his cult-beloved 2011 remix of Benny Benassi’s Cinema. Cheers filled the festival grounds as fireworks shot out from the stage, the iconic cry of “d-d-d-d-d-drop the bass” taking us right back to our (deeply regrettable) snapback-and-Cruiser phase. It was the ultimate form of fan service, and though the moment lasted no more than a minute, it honestly had us buzzing for hours afterwards.
Could it be, too, that Moore was hinting at the impending release of his fan-favourite Voltage ID (which is largely based on the Cinema remix)? Perhaps on the upcoming SKRLX album, long rumoured to have a tracklist comprised of his “forgotten” gems?